As with so many worthwhile endeavors, Guide Dogs for the Blind began in response to a critical need. In the spring of 1942, founders Lois Merrihew and Don Donaldson recognized that many service members were returning from World War II with visual impairments. Although select guide-dog schools existed on the East Coast, there wasn?t anything available on the West Coast. The duo decided to open a campus in San Francisco where not only would the best and brightest pups train to become guide dogs, but their owners would be welcomed and shown how to use their companions to lead a more fulfilling life.
More than 70 years later, the school has graduated more than 10,000 teams of guide dogs and their human masters from its training programs. The school has also expanded considerably in terms of physical size, encompassing both an 11-acre main campus in San Rafael, California, as well as a campus in Boring, Oregon, that opened in 1995. At each location, labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and crosses of the two breeds train from an early age under the tutelage of licensed instructors, who impart all of the necessary skills to help visually impaired owners navigate daily life.